On the whole, people living in Asia are very superstitious. Go anywhere-from the narrow alleyways in India to the night markets of Taipei or Malaysia-and you are bound to come across hundreds of locals sticking out their hands or thumbs in the hope that the fortune teller will deliver them some good news regarding money, health or love.
It really does seem as if almost everyone is seeking some kind of miracle from these saints, whose role in society is deeply rooted in local religious beliefs, compelling people to set aside the doubts of modernity to abide by their proclamations. As you're about to find out, even I fell for the tricks of these wandering hermits. In all the years I have been in China, I have had my fair share of stories regarding random conversations with certain fortune tellers.
Try walking anywhere in China without bumping into one of them. Unless you are in the cushy surroundings of your own vehicle, chances are that you won't be able to avoid someone resembling a Buddhist Monk in your travels around the city. They are usually casually dressed in brown or orange-colored overalls and sporting a crew cut or a fully-shaved head covered with a plain clay-colored hat resembling one that a surgeon wears in the operating theater (this applies to the women too). The first thing that strikes you about these fortune tellers is that they will stop you before you even blink at them. It's almost as if they have the power to read your mind;even if you have not noticed them, somehow they end up noticing you.
In 2004, I fondly remember a sudden encounter with a Cantonese fortune eller on a muggy August evening in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou. I happened to be walking back to my home after a long and tiring day at work. The weather was one of the reasons I was exhausted; I felt as if I had been to the gym in my business suit. All I wanted to do was retreat to the air conditioned surroundings of my home and drop dead on my bed. Just as I was about to turn right into the side road that led to my apartment, I stumbled across an elderly monk dressed in yellow pajamas, clutching a saggy-looking rucksack over his shoulder.
What happened next was just too strange to believe. The monk pointed his finger straight at my face and said in clear Mandarin: "ni....ni shi ying guo ren ma?" "You.... you are a British man, right?". Dumbstruck, I could not resist the curiosity to find out how on earth he knew my nationality. Maybe he was guessing, but if he was, his guess was too good-I actually look like I am from South Asia or perhaps the Middle East. The man could hardly communicate in English. Our conversation consisted of me trying to communicate with the elder monk in as much Chinese as I could muster. While I am not a huge fan of self-admiration I must say that I was able to understand almost everything he said. Both of us used a lot of hand gestures too.
When it got to the point of showing him the palm of my hand, his eyes opened wide. It's almost as if he was surprised. Surely it can't be that bad!? I thought to myself. Thoughts and questions gathered in my mind at the same time. My fears were allayed, however, when all he said was that I have a bright future and that I would live a healthy life. He then went onto to mention that the energy levels of my body were low. "Energy levels of my body are low? What's that supposed to mean? I asked him to clarify, but he could not explain this point clearly, even in Chinese. From some of my other experiences with clairvoyants, I have found myself used like a money machine, where I had to fork out the required amount of notes each time I wanted to find out more about my future.
Oddly, this elder asked for no money whatsoever. With a smile on his face and gesturing with two thumbs in the air, he handed me a small gold-colored "lucky charm," and walked casually away-quickly disappearing into the chaotic sea of Guangzhou's nightly traffic scene. From this, and other experiences, all I can say is that I am still in search of my future. Have any one of these predictions actually come true? It's a tricky question and I am not really sure of the answer.
So next time you are in China... enjoy your fortune being told. Irrespective of whether it's good or bad news, don't bother losing your sleep over it.
I am still in Shenzhen, China. Busy as ever. And I know it's been a while now, but I have been very busy (no excuses!) and did not have the chance to put these photos up. In actual fact only 7 of the best photos were published in the Telegraph and other magazines around the world. There are some photos' of the surrounding area too (famous for Niagara Grape Wine!). So, here are photos' for everyone to enjoy.
Again, this is another story I would like to share-- one I wrote for in-flight magazines.
After the economic meltdown recently, Dubai is beginning to see a growth again. One of the most important aspects of this growth is the sheer determination and the vision that the local people who live and work here have to create a awesome city. To enjoy a true overall view of the city, it is strongly recommended that one takes a Sky Tour with Seawings. With Seawings (www.seawings.ae) you take off from the harbour in the seaplane from Jebel Ali terminal, on the border with Abu Dhabi, and go over all the main sights including Jebel Ali Palm, Jebel Ali Port, Dubai Marina, the world famous Palm Jumeirah and the “World Islands”. Unlike any other flying experience, this one is sure to give Dubai that “Wow!” factor. Nothing beats taking off from the beautiful turquoise waters of the Jebel Ali harbour, located in one of the most beautiful and expensive areas of the city. Guests are treated to a refreshing glass of fresh Orange Juice prior to take off, which is always a welcomed in the sheer heat. The views are stunning- there is absolutely no other word to describe the experience. Seawings is just about taking a simple flight over Dubai- this is about class, about luxury, about experiencing the true enjoyment of flying in a pre-historic seaplane (something which is of a rarity these days). This is what flying should be life and this is how Dubai should be enjoyed. So, sit back, relax and enjoy! Prices start from 995 AED for a 30-minute flight.
If Helicopters are more of your thing then take a 45-minute “HELIPLATNIUM” tour with Aerogulf Services (www.aerogulfservices.com). The flight, operated using a Bell 206 Helicopter, ride makes the flight experience a bit more thrilling because Helicopters are fast and dashing ways to fly. The scenic views from the helicopter will just blow your mind away! There is nothing quite like it. Don’t forget to take your Camera otherwise it would be a wasted opportunity. Helicopter tours depart from Dubai International Airport and people need to book at least 3 days in advance to complete the security checks.
Wow...times flies. I have been very busy here in Shenzhen and Guangzhou preparing for what will hopefully become my second edition of the “Newcomers Handbook to China”. China has changed a lot and indeed the culture of this country has changed a lot too. What else I have realised is that people (especially the Young People) are experimenting with some unknown styles of fashion.
Anyways, it has been a while since I have written on my blog, but I thought I would start off by mentioning about the upcoming IT&CMA MICE in Bangkok from the 5th to the 7th of October. I still fondly miss the event that happened in Shanghai- time has gone so quick that it still feels like yesterday (it really does!).
Anyways the great efforts from the buyers and CTW corporate travel managers, association executives and media at the Shanghai IT&CMA event have paid off handsomely. More than 900 registrations from interested participants around the world have been received so far. This year’s Doublebill MICE and Corporate Travel event is slated to boast one of the most diverse and sought-after target audience profiles which exhibitors and sponsors are looking to meet and network with.
“Our exhibitors tell us that in addition to wooing the MICE sector, corporate travel and association networks are pivotal for business going forward. Thus, our focus this year is to ensure that we deliver more of these delegates to the event.” observes Mr Darren Ng, Managing Director of TTG Asia Media, organizer of IT&CMA and CTW 2010.
In addition to the investment of delivering a diverse profile of quality international buyers and corporate travel managers, the organisers have also enhanced the IT&CMA and CTW 2010 programme. This successfully contributed to attracting procurement managers, planners, influencers and decision makers from some of the world’s biggest corporate names across multiple industries including Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Symantec, Societe Generale Bank, The Body Shop, Robert Bosch and Mazda. “Delegates are also looking forward to the return of the popular ‘You Say, I Say’ interactive panel discussion that invites audiences to voice their opinions and engage with six dynamic industry experts on some of the community’s most pressing issues. This year’s keynote presentation on ‘The Future of Delivering and Creating Value In Service’ by Ms Irene Ng will offer fresh perspectives and insights on achieving optimal results in this area.” describes Mr Ooi Peng Ee, General Manager of TTG Asia Media’s events and exhibitions division.
This year’s programme will also welcome a variety of top association executives from International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) and the Asian Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus (AACVB) who are co-locating their meetings in conjunction with IT&CMA and CTW 2010. The specially designed starter accreditation Association Professional Competencies Certification Course (PAE102) offered during CTW 2010 by the Australian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE) and Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE), is expected to bring more association executives to the show. CTW’s second accreditation programme, the Corporate Travel Expert (CTE) Designation Course by National Business Travel Association (NBTA), is tailored exclusively for Corporate Travel Managers.
The event’s strategic partner Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) is also intensifying its efforts to promote Thailand as a MICE and Corporate Travel destination through IT&CMA and CTW 2010. Mr. Akapol Sorasuchart, President of Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureaucommented, “To encourage an increased Thai presence at this exhibition, TCEB has funded a total of 57 local travel agents and destination management companies to be at the event. These companies will occupy over 300 sqm of the IT&CMA exhibition hall. This supportive and optimistic response demonstrates Thailand’s determination and dedication as the host country of IT&CMA and CTW, in moving towards fulfilling our intention of being the centre of MICE development for the Asia Pacific.”
I am very much looking forward to going to this event in Bangkok, not just for the coverage but because it will be my first ever trip to the city of Bangkok. Previously I have only been through the (now old) International Airport in 2004 when I was on a business trip to Chiang Mai with Thai Airways. So this time around I should bring back some reports from the city as well- along with airline reviews, especially as I will be flying from Hong Kong (There are a myraid of exotic airlines that fly this sector and I want to try them!). Watch this space…Bangkok here I come!
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